Kansas City Chiefs: Tony Gonzalez

Thanks to all who answered my recent question asking which player was the Kansas City Chiefs' most recent elite wide receiver. The most popular answer was Andre Rison, who played three seasons for the Chiefs in the late 1990s and caught 133 passes with 12 touchdowns. His only big season with Kansas City happened in 1997, when Rison caught 72 passes for almost 1,100 yards.

Otis Taylor, who finished his Chiefs career in 1975, also received some of your votes.

My opinion? Other than perhaps Taylor, I’m not sure the Chiefs have ever had an elite wide receiver. They’ve had some very good ones and some who had outstanding but isolated seasons, like Dwayne Bowe in 2010, Derrick Alexander in 2000, and Rison in 1997.

But as far as players who opponents truly feared, who succeeded despite whatever the opposing defense presented to the Chiefs, maybe we have to look back all the way to Taylor.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re not counting former tight end Tony Gonzalez. He was an elite receiver by any measure, but played a different position.

Still, if we’re looking back almost 40 years to the last elite Chiefs wide receiver, isn’t it time they get another? The way the draft is setting up this year, it might be difficult for the Chiefs to accomplish. But it will be difficult for the Chiefs to have a consistently strong offense until they find one.

Who's next for Chiefs' Hall of Fame?

February, 28, 2014
In addition to announcing their Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards on Saturday, the Chiefs will unveil this year's entrant to the team's Hall of Fame. The most obvious candidate is Priest Holmes, who is the Chiefs' all-time leader in touchdowns and rushing yardage. I thought the Chiefs would put Holmes in last year but they went with safety Gary Barbaro instead. If it's Holmes' time, it's obviously a great choice.

But there are other deserving candidates. The Chiefs like to wait five years after a player is retired before they put him in the Hall of Fame, so Tony Gonzalez has some time to wait. Larry Johnson needs three more years before he can get in but his time has to eventually come. He's only a few rushing yards behind Holmes, so he deserves it. If Curtis McClinton and Christian Okoye are in, Johnson should eventually be, too.

I think those great Chiefs offensive lines from the Dick Vermeil days need more representation in the team's Hall of Fame. Will Shields is already in and Brian Waters is a lock, eventually. Until then, what about Willie Roaf? He played only four seasons with the Chiefs but was so good during that time that he at least deserves consideration.

Then there's Trent Green, who had four great seasons as the Chiefs quarterback. Green has the highest passer rating for any Chiefs quarterback who's thrown at least 1,000 passes. He would be just the second Chiefs quarterback in their Hall of Fame and deserves to join Len Dawson there some day, perhaps even this year.
LeBron James has put Mount Rushmore in the news lately and here we're going to give you our choices for a Kansas City Chiefs Mount Rushmore. We'll call it Mount Arrowhead instead.

Lots of deserving candidates but here are the four heads I believe should be mounted somewhere atop Arrowhead Stadium.

1. Lamar Hunt. The franchise's founder, he also created the American Football League. He died in 2006 but Hunt's perceptive vision still guides the franchise. His legacy lives on in his son Clark, the Chiefs' current chairman.

2. Len Dawson. The only quarterback to ever guide the Chiefs to a league championship, and Dawson did it three times. Included is the Chiefs' only Super Bowl title. His legacy has only grown in the 39 years since his retirement as the Chiefs have repeatedly failed to adequately replace him.

3. Tony Gonzalez. The greatest pass catching tight end of all time spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Chiefs. That the Chiefs didn't win a title or even a playoff game during that time was hardly his fault.

4. Derrick Thomas. This may be my bias toward a more recent era. But those Chiefs' teams of the early to mid 90s, when the franchise experienced a revival, need to be represented. And I couldn't leave off one of the game's all-time great pass rushers.

I ran out of room before I could get to Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier and Hank Stram. But the arguments for each of them are compelling.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez concludes his first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame career on Sunday for the Atlanta Falcons. Chiefs fans will enjoy this piece in which Gonzalez looks back on the early portion of his career and in particular his first game for the Chiefs on Aug. 31, 1997 against the Broncos in Denver.

Chiefs fans might have trouble recalling this now, but Gonzalez's rookie season was quite the disappointment. He caught just 33 passes and at the time was considered a bust. He dropped a lot of throws and, as he notes in the story, didn't have the work ethic he had later in his career that would allow him to overcome the problem.

Eventually, he did overcome it and became a superb pass catcher. He could go and get a ball as well as -- and perhaps better than -- anyone who ever played his position.

Gonzalez played the first 12 seasons of his career for the Chiefs before the controversial trade that sent him to the Falcons. The Chiefs didn't get fair value for Gonzalez, netting a second-round draft pick that they eventually turned into Javier Arenas, a since-departed nickel back and kick returner.

But the Chiefs didn't have a lot of leverage at the time. Gonzalez wanted out of Kansas City and would have been a problem in the military-style regime of the new general manager, Scott Pioli, and coach, Todd Haley. So the Chiefs were forced to take the best offer they could find.

It's too bad the Chiefs couldn't have found a way to bring Gonzalez back to Kansas City to finish his career once it became obvious that this season the Chiefs were the playoff contenders and not the Falcons. How much better would Kansas City's passing game be if Alex Smith had Gonzalez to throw to?

It didn't happen, so Chiefs fans will have to be content with the 12 seasons of Gonzalez they had. And, despite a rough start, it was a great ride.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The idea of the Chiefs trading for tight end Tony Gonzalez made plenty of sense from Kansas City’s point of view, was fun to talk about and stirred the sentiment of fans who wanted to see his Hall of Fame career end where it started.

The problem was, it was never close to being a reality. A potential trade made no sense for the Atlanta Falcons, who were always better off keeping Gonzalez for the last half of the season rather than dumping him for a low-round draft pick.

“We owe it to our owner, our fans, our coaches and our players to win as many games as possible, and we believe that we have the pieces to be a good football team,” Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We know we have dug ourselves a hole, but together we can dig ourselves out and that is what we are focused on.”

The Falcons are 2-5 and won’t be making the playoffs either as the NFC South champions or as a wild-card entrant. But injuries have stripped quarterback Matt Ryan of his best receivers other than Gonzalez. The Falcons simply couldn’t afford to leave Ryan with no reliable receivers.

So assuming Gonzalez makes good on this year’s retirement promise, you have nine games left to go watch him one last time in person. You could catch Gonzalez at home in Atlanta or on the road for games in Carolina, Tampa, Toronto, Green Bay or San Francisco.

But you won’t see him in Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fans have been clamoring for the Kansas City Chiefs to bring Tony Gonzalez back so he can make his final Super Bowl run in Kansas City. The idea has a lot of merit.

Forget that one of the franchise’s all-time greats would be returning to the Chiefs. They have too good a thing going this year to get all sentimental. This has to be about football and nothing else.

So what really matters is this: How much better would their passing game look with Gonzalez attracting plenty of defensive attention in the middle of the field?

A lot. So from that angle, the return of Gonzalez would make a lot of sense.

Don’t let anyone tell you it wouldn’t work financially, either. It would be a tight squeeze, but the Chiefs have about $2.5 million of available salary cap room. Gonzalez’s base salary this season is $3.5. He’s due 12 more paychecks this season, so that adds up to a tidy $2.471 million.

The biggest concern for the Chiefs should be their locker room and what introducing a player of Gonzalez’s stature would do. Toward the end of his time with the Chiefs, Gonzalez was more interested in personal goals than winning. The Chiefs have some great chemistry, and they need to be wary of everything before introducing a foreign element into their locker room. The only way a Gonzalez trade works for them is if he won’t pout if he doesn’t get the ball.

It also doesn’t make a ton of sense that the 1-4 Atlanta Falcons would bail on Gonzalez and their season so soon. They’re already four games behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, so a division championship is out of the question. They could still be a factor in the wild-card chase, but only if they don’t trade Gonzalez.

So while this is fun to think about, a Gonzalez return to the Chiefs may be just that: wishful thinking.